Last week I had a conversation with an older gentleman. He was expressing concern over the lack of local candidates stepping up for an upcoming election. He suggested that the reason why many people do not want to run for office now is because of the recent surge in allegations of sexual abuse against various celebrities on social media and in the news. He believes that people are innocent until proven guilty and with people coming forward to the media and “creating a big stink,” it is making the public assume guilt before the facts have had a chance to be proven in court.
I took great care in not reacting negatively to his statements. It was apparent that he did not know what I have been through and how transparent I have been with my story of abuse on social media. Instead of anger or disgust with with his suggestions, I chose to listen intently to him as I knew this kind of conversation was foreign to him. While his worldviews are antiquated, I could sense confusion in his words as I could tell he was trying to make sense of the “new” world of social media. As he furthered his opinion that most people attacking celebrities were just after money, I passively agreed with him but with the caveat that he was misunderstood and that most people who come forward are not, in fact, looking for any kind of restitution. At this point, I wanted to throw him a bone to keep the conversation alive. I was comfortable with my worldview and chose to learn from his. Had I reacted negatively, neither of us would have learned from this interaction.
As our conversation continued, I decided to press the idea to him that “where there is smoke, there is fire.” When allegations against a person mounts, there is reasonable cause to believe that at least some event of abuse had happened. I assured him that when a victim comes forward with such a story, it can be very excruciating and embarrassing. If someone is falsely accusing an innocent person of sexual abuse, the facts are tough to hold together and the pressure to maintain that story over time can crack even the most seasoned of liars. While he didn’t really bite on that thought, I could tell that somewhere in his mind, I planted a seed.
I’ll be honest, in a perfect world, I would love for all cases of abuse to be heard in court and decided in a timely and consistent manner. I would love to live in a world which the accused be charged or cleared of accusations quicker so that both parties can move on and seek help promptly. But, unfortunately, we don’t live in that world. Human emotion and pain can no longer wait for an overworked justice system to provide a decision.
Through social media, the abused are finding strength from a voice that can be shared at lightning speed. While speaking out does not provide a resolution, it does give an outcome. As someone who has been a victim, an outcome is better than silence. It has been nearly 4 years since I went to the police to find justice and I have yet to see the inside of a courtroom. My healing couldn’t wait that long. I only have so many years left on this planet, I wasn’t about to allow a judge to hold my life hostage any longer.
I came away from our conversation with a realization that there are still many people trying to come to grips with a transparent world. While I was somewhat shocked to have it, I realized this conversation would have never happened 20 years ago, maybe not even 5 years ago. The once dominant power of silence that the abuser had over the abused has now become the influential healing voice of the abused over the abusers. The topic is changing, the words are being told, I am grateful to have had this conversation with an antique.